Oct. 14, 2011
Read John Denton's Knights Insider |
Follow us on Twitter |
Get social with the Knights on Facebook
By Eric DeSalvo
HOUSTON, Texas (UCFAthletics.com) - In the first of two matches on a crucial conference road trip, the UCF volleyball team earned a hard-fought 3-1 (25-14, 24-26, 25-17, 25-21) win over Rice Friday night at the Tudor Fieldhouse. This is the first victory for the Knights (12-7, 4-4) against Rice since joining Conference USA in 2005, and overall since 1999.
"I can't even express how proud I am of how our team handled the entire week of preparation for this road trip. I think that we had the correct frame of mind the whole week of practice and it paid off tonight," head volleyball coach Todd Dagenais said. "Once again we started off a match solid, but this time we stayed consistent pretty much the whole way through."
Leading the attack against the Owls (10-9, 5-3) were outside hitters Angelica Crump (Atlanta, Ga.) and Evija Vilde (Riga, Latvia). The duo combined for 46 of the Knights' 69 total kills. Crump landed a career-best 24 daggers, while Vilde posted her second-straight 22-kill performance to match a career-high.
Senior setter Rachel Vukson was the catalyst to the Knights' potent offensive attack that yielded a team hitting percentage of .333. The Oakville, Ontario, native hoisted 60 helpers in just four sets for her second-straight 60-assist performance.
"We are heading into another week without Kayla (Keller) in the lineup, and every week I feel like we will get a little bit better," Dagenais added. "We are far from what we are going to be, but we are working to get there. Ashley (Gailenios) came in and did a great job early setting a defensive tempo early with two block solos, and Nichole Riedel came in with a nice look offensively and did what we asked here to do. Both of them shared and did their part along with the entire team."
The Knights jumped out to an early lead on Rice, winning their first set inside the Tudor Fieldhouse since 2006, 25-14. Vilde blasted seven kills in the stanza and Vukson dished out 16 assists on her way to her 10th double-double in 2011. As a squad, UCF hit .441 in the frame and limited Rice to just .062.
After dropping the second set, 26-24, UCF bounced back to capture the third frame, 25-17. Vukson dished out 14 more helpers and chipped in with two blocks as Vilde continued her career outing with six more kills in the stanza. Freshman DeLaina Sarden (Lawrenceville, Ga.) stepped up with three of her career-best 14 kills for her sixth-consecutive double-double.
In the fourth set, the Knights went on a furious rally to take the frame and match from the Owls, 25-21. Down 14-19, UCF ripped off five-consecutive points to tie the host team, and closed out the contest by winning 11 of the next 13. Crump shut the door on Rice with 10 kills in the stanza, and finished the evening with a .360 attack percentage.
"Early in that fourth set we were down, but I think we had six errors and seven points," Dagenais said. "I thought we recognized what we were doing wrong and we went back and settled down and started letting the game come to us. We started catching some breaks and creating our own, and I think that closing run was huge. We made a lot of great individual effort plays that helped in the outcome."
Aside from the impressive offensive numbers, the Knights also dominated on the defensive end by holding Rice to an overall hitting percentage of .217. Sarden and junior Tory McCutcheon (Milton, Ontario) led the charge on defense with six and five block assists, respectively, and aided the team to 13 total blocks. Junior Meredith Murphy (Austin, Texas) covered the floor well in her home state with a team-high 14 digs.
UCF will end its two-match road swing in the Lone Star State with a matinee showdown at Houston on Sunday at 2 p.m. EDT. The Knights will be looking for their first win against the Cougars since joining C-USA.